Powers of police in the matter of investigation

In this law article, you will read about the powers of the Indian police in the matter of investigation as per the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 (CrPC).

What Is an Investigation?

The Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973 includes an important component called investigation. Section 2(h) of the Code defines the word “investigation.”

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An investigation is the first step after a crime is committed or information about the commission of an offence is received by a police officer. The main objective of the investigation is to identify the offender and bring him to trial so that he can be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Police officers have the authority to investigate matters that are cognizable under section 156 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In non-cognizable cases, the police officer must acquire a warrant pursuant to section 155(2) of the CrPC in order to conduct an investigation.

Note: Offences under the criminal laws are classified into cognizable and non-cognizable offences:

  • As per section 2(c) of CrPC, cognizable offences deal with matters that are heinous in nature when the facts of the case show the commission of a serious offence that has a deterrent effect on society. The list of cognizable offences includes serious acts that are punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for a term of not less than three years.
  • As per section 2(l) of CrPC, non-cognizable offences are criminal offences committed against private individuals for which arrests can be made only after a warrant is issued by the relevant courts/magistrates.

For More: What Are Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences?

Powers of the Police With Respect to Cognizable Offence

Section 156 of the CrPC empowers the police to deal with cognizable offences. The procedure that the police must follow with respect to cognizable offences are:

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  • When an FIR is filed at the police station, and the offence is cognizable, the police can proceed with an arrest without waiting for a court warrant.
  • As soon as the arrest is made, an investigation can begin, and it is only allowed to look at the area under that police station’s local jurisdiction.
  • If the information discloses a cognizable offence, the police are obligated to file an FIR. If the crime scene is outside the police station’s jurisdiction, the concerned officer must register the report and send it to the police station with jurisdiction.

Powers of Police With Respect to Non-Cognizable Offence

Section 155 of the CrPC deals with information regarding the commission of non-cognizable offences.

  • Under non-cognizable offences, the police are not permitted to make arrests without a warrant and initiate an independent investigation without the magistrate’s approval.
  • As per section 155(2) of the CrPC, the police officer must obtain the magistrate’s permission before proceeding.
  • The police officer must document the complaint and direct the complainant to approach the magistrate with jurisdiction. The investigation can proceed once the magistrate grants permission.

Procedure for Investigation

Section 157 of the CrPC provides the procedure for investigation by police in respect of cognizable offences.

When a police officer in charge of a police station has grounds to believe that a cognizable offence has been committed based on the FIR or any other information so received, the investigation of a cognizable case begins.

As soon as the police officer receives information or has reason to suspect the commission of any cognizable offence, he is required to notify the magistrate, who has jurisdiction over such cases.

When a police officer receives information that is not of a serious nature, the officer does not need to proceed in person, and he can delegate some subordinate officer to investigate on the spot. And if there is no sufficient reason to investigate the case, he shall not investigate it. And shall state in its report the reasons for failing to comply with the requirements of this section, as well as notify the informant that he will not investigate or cause the case to be investigated.

Sending a Police Report to the Magistrate

A report is sent to the magistrate, which is called the police report. A superior police officer sends it to notify the magistrate that a police officer is investigating a specific case. The primary objective of submitting a report is to allow the magistrate to control the investigation and issue directions as required by section 159 of the CrPC.

Without any delay, the report must be delivered to the magistrate. It was decided in the case of Swati Ram vs the State of Rajasthan that a simple delay in providing the report did not nullify the prosecution’s case entirely.

Search by Police Officer

Under section 165 of the CrPC, a police officer conducting an investigation has the authority to search any place within the local limits of the police station of which he is in charge of or to which he is attached where he reasonably believes he will find anything necessary for the purpose of the investigation being conducted by him, without obtaining a search warrant.

The officer conducting the investigation is obliged to conduct the search in person, but if that is not possible, they can give written permission to any subordinate officer to do so by stating the object for which the search is necessary as well as the location of the search.

Related: What Is the Procedure of Search by a Police Officer (Search With Warrant and Search Without Warrant)


It is concluded that during the course of an investigation, the powers of the police must be given utmost importance. Such police powers are systematically listed in the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973. The Code specifies the investigation procedure as well as the method by which the police must conduct the investigation when handling any given case.

There are some circumstances in which the police cannot arbitrarily abuse the authority given to them in the name of an investigation, even though they may have some discretionary powers when conducting any investigation.

Read Next:
When Can Police Search a Home Without a Warrant?
2. Complaint, FIR, Investigation, Inquiry, and Trial Under CrPC
3. Bail Provisions Under the Criminal Procedure Code
4. When the Investigation Cannot Be Completed in 24 Hours? Section 167 CrPC Explained

Sravani Ravinuthala
WritingLaw » Law Notes » Powers of Indian Police to Investigate as Per CrPC Law Study Material
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